Help yourself help your customers

Kroger app screenshot


Once a company has made things easier for its customers, there are few things as frustrating as having them turn around and make things difficult again.

I experienced this recently at my local Kroger grocery store when they had a sign advertising a coupon for a free item.

Kroger has one of the better shopping apps available for your mobile phone. It offers more than you really need, but it builds upon the company’s shopper’s card, which helps you get discounts at the store. I find the app most helpful for “clipping” coupons to my shopper’s card. It easily replaces the old paper coupons and actually has me using more coupons than I ever did the old-fashioned way.

Back to my recent experience, I spotted a sign in the store for a Free Friday Download, which is a relatively new marketing promotion Kroger is trying. The idea is that you can download a coupon for a free item — in this most recent case, it was for a bottle of pop. So, I decided to try to take advantage of the freebie. That’s when frustration reigned supreme.

My first thought was, “I’ll just open my Kroger app on my phone and grab it from there.” I don’t remember seeing the Free Friday option the last time I was on my app, but since it’s a new thing I figured maybe I just hadn’t noticed it yet. So, I opened the app and searched while following my wife through the store. I searched. And searched. There was no Free Friday download or related coupon. I made my way back to the sign to see if I had missed some direction.

Kroger Free Friday download signWhat I found was a website address. Fine, it’s not as convenient as the app, but if it was mobile-optimized maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. While the site was mobile-optimized, it was not the doorway to a convenient experience. I could see the Free Friday coupon, but I couldn’t download it to anything. The reason is that it required me to log in to my Kroger account via my email address and password.

The reason I have an app, and use it, is because of its convenience and the fact that I don’t have to constantly remember my log-in information. It just opens and works.

I couldn’t remember my log-in and I wasn’t going to waste time standing in a grocery store aisle to try to figure it out. So, I gave up. That means instead of getting a free pop and expressing appreciation for it to anyone who would listen, I am now writing a negative blog post about a customer service and marketing screw-up by a company that does well normally.

If your company an app, then use it, drive people to it, promote more downloads; never abandon it. The marketing sign should have promoted the app. If Kroger wants customers to download something, they should have them download the app, then make the Free Friday coupon available on it.

Kroger has figured out how to help its customers in many ways. Now, it needs to learn how to help itself help its customers even more.


These savings programs work because you don’t have to

You can save money if you clip coupons, become a member of a rewards club, and do a lot of other things that take time and effort — both of which are in short supply these days. Besides, many rewards programs require you to carry around those annoying plastic key tags. Instead, you can take advantage of technology that does the work for you. For the past few months, I’ve been using two such technological advances and I’ve found they work well, save me money and are about as effortless as you can get. Oh, and it’s all free. Cha ching!

The first is Key Ring, an app available in both the Android and Apple app stores. Initial setup takes some effort, of course, but it pays off well in the long run. You’re required to set up a Cellfire account, which then allows you to enter your current rewards program key tabs. If you initiate the app on  your phone, you can simply scan the barcodes and it will enter all the information for you. After that, the program is relatively maintenance free. You just open it up periodically and “clip” the coupons that are offered. Here’s where the easy part comes in. Once you clip the coupon, it is added to your rewards program account and the coupons are automatically deducted from your bill when you shop at that store and use your savings card. If you’re so inclined, it will even produce a shopping list for you based on the coupons you’ve clipped.

For example, one of the grocery stores I shop at is Kroger. Their  tag has been dangling off my keychain for a few years now and, overall, the card is worth it because of the instant savings it offers. But now, because I’ve connected that rewards card to my Key Ring app and Cellfire account, I can clip coupons that are electronically stored on my rewards card. When I go to the check out, I simply enter my ID number and scan my groceries. When the order is totaled, Kroger takes off its instant savings and the Cellfire account deducts my electronic coupons. Cha ching!

You’re supposed to be able to scan the program tag’s bar code straight from your phone, but I’ve found some of the scanners don’t like to read the phone screen, so I just punch in the numbers. It’s not that difficult and worth the savings. Plus, this should solve the problem of the dozens of coupons that get clipped, hung on my refrigerator, and then periodically thrown away because I never remember to grab them on the way to the store.

As a bonus, the Shell gas stations in town have a deal  with Kroger so that as your grocery purchases add up, they can result in a discount for gasoline. So, for example, I have shopped at Kroger more because of the Key Ring/Cellfire program. I saved money I wouldn’t have normally because I had electronic coupons available for my purchases and because I’ve shopped at Kroger more, my total spending there has added up. When I entered the program code at the gas pump, I saved 10 cents per gallon. Cha ching!

It’s easy, it’s relatively effortless, and it finally gives me a rewards program that I find more rewarding than annoying.

The second program I’ve found some limited success with is the new connection between Foursquare and American Express. You can now register your American Express credit card with your Foursquare account, which allows you to receive discounts and special deals at businesses if you check in there. For example, a car wash near me had a deal for Small Business Saturday that if you checked in on Foursquare and purchased a pack of washes with your American Express card, you received a statement credit. The washes there start at $6.50 each. Thanks to this new Foursqaure/Amex partnership and a bulk discount from the car wash, I am getting $32.50 worth of washes for $2.50. Cha ching!

I can’t wait to see what will happen with the Foursquare/Amex partnership as more businesses catch on to the benefits of offering special deals for people who are tech savvy and take advantage of being connected. The businesses that will be the most successful in the next few years are the ones who have figured out that their consumers are mobile, so the deals should be, too.

I think I covered the basics on these two programs, but if you have questions or concerns, drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help. If you’re good to go, then I encourage you to take advantage of the technology. It’s as if a little money tree is sprouting on your phone and all you need to do is pluck the leaves.  🙂